Finance Minister Announces Free Food Grains For Migrants. Shouldn’t This Have Come Two Months Ago?


Finance Minister Announces Free Food Grains For Migrants. Shouldn’t This Have Come Two Months Ago?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

It’s been weeks since images of migrant workers with no money or food, attempting to cross long distances on foot, started circulating on social media. The crisis, reported from several states in the country, has been one of the most heartbreaking side-effects of the abrupt and lasting lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the Finance Minister, in her second tranche of announcements, finally offered some relief to the struggling labourers. As part of the government’s economic package, migrants will be given free food grain supply for the next two months, Nirmala Sitharaman announced, adding that eight crore people stood to benefit from this move.

Those who do not have state beneficiary cards where they are will also be provided with five kg of wheat and rice each, and a kg of chana per family per month, the FM said. She also announced the introduction of a “one nation, one ration card” system by August 2020, which 67 crore citizens are expected to benefit from.

Even as some hailed the package online, not everyone was convinced by the timing.

Journalists were among those who took to Twitter to point out that such a move should have been implemented on March 24, the day the lockdown was imposed. They argue it could have prevented some of the suffering we’ve been seeing on our timelines.

Opposition party leaders had on Wednesday also called the government out for ignoring the plight of the migrant labourers in the Finance Minister’s first speech, with Sitaram Yechury calling the economic package “insensitive” and a “farce”.

There have also been several calls in the last couple of weeks that the food currently lying in godowns across the country be distributed among the poor.

As the internet debates about whether the latest of the FM’s announcements will offset the crisis India’s migrant labourers are going through, or go down in history as another of “too little too late”, all eyes, we’re sure, will be peeled on what the third tranche has in store for us on Friday.